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Al der and some snow

Al der and some snow

Postby scottishkennyg » Mon Mar 25, 2013 9:07 pm

Route description: Ben Alder and Beinn Bheoil from Culra

Munros included on this walk: Beinn Bheoil, Ben Alder

Date walked: 21/03/2013

Time taken: 12.5 hours

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I arrived at Dalwhinnie Stn at 0745 just in time for the train.
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Former colleagues waiting for me to cross the line

Over the level crossing then off along the smooth road. The top surface was icy in the woods and would contribute to at least five tumbleweed falls. At the wee feeding station a herd of long haired horses were dining alTesco. One of them tried to follow and I thought I was on to a lift.
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Horses dining altesco - think I was more afraid of them

I continued along to loch Pattack, over the wobbly bridge then onto Culra bothy at 910.
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A nice view back along the track with the morning sunshine trying to burn the creeping snow clouds away

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The wobbly bridge en route to culra bothy

Parked the bike at the bridge and deposited a half can of Pepsi for later.

Heading up the Bealach Beithe I contemplated what route to take. The foul weather contingency was over the pass then up the west ridge right to summit and a return to reassess. As I neared the Coire na Lethchois I crossed the river and over the soft snow to converge with the long rocky spur.
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River crossing to seek the long coire na lethchois ridge

The route was not as exposed as sections of the walk in Glen Affric last week. With full crampons on all the way, progress up the steepening rocky ridge was steady. The views were intermittent and there was constant evidence of snow movement.
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View from where I joined the ridge

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View back down ridge from about halfway

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View up ridge from about half way

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View back down ridge from about 2/3 up

There were several narrow corniced sections to negotiate but the snow was consolidated.
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View up final sections of long ridge

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View on ridge near top looking up

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View back down long ridge from near plateau top

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Section of ridge at top of long ridge - note snow crack

At the final section to the summit plateau the snow line movement on the ridge was clearly visible. This was a stark warning to stay well away from all edges.
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NW ridge of BA

The spindrift snow and icy wind combined to make blizzard like conditions. It was minus 8 when I left the car I reckoned I was now walking in the equivalent of a large freezer. Not easy to make good progress in these extreme conditions. The summit plateau was vast and easy to get disorientated.
I had taken a direct bearing from the top of the spur and just battled 1.5km over the soft snow for about 40 minutes with many mirages and false dawns until the true top appeared. 1320. The trig point was adorned in frozen snow in the shape of leaves.
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Summit top and mini blizzard

Not the place for lunch as even the wind shelter was too exposed. I did not fancy the next section of the walk as it required extreme caution and a watchful eye for any physical land features. I took a bearing direct for Lochan a Garbh Choire (ha ha) what chance did I have of finding that at a mere 100m wide if the massive big loch in the Bealach Beithe at 2km length was not visible. I moved on and tried in vain to keep the rim of the east cliffs in my peripheral vision. Visibility was very poor and the wind and spindrift ice bullets were painful. Progress was slow and the terrain seemed endless.
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Eerie view of ridge on BA

After some time I was getting anxious as I had not yet found the East flank to the pass. I got a glance through the conditions and took a line of site bearing. Seemed like a good idea but almost a disastrous outcome. I was walking on this line and my sixth sense made me halt, like a horse rearing, and I got a glimpse onto the black rocks immediately beneath me. **** Very scary moment, rapid retreat required. I dug a hole and sat in for a wee while to evaluate the options and re-navigate.
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Spindrift blowing up east cliffs

I decided that the safest option would be to take a very wide general south east bearing aiming away from the cliffs to source easier slopes. I inched my way along this route taking very small steps. After some time I noticed a large cairn, which turned out to sat perched on the East top. I re checked the map and aimed SE to traverse down to the pass. (Bealach Breabag) It was now 1520. I was delighted that I now had the less risky option to return down the glen to the bothy.
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View from BA east ridge SE toward Schiehallion

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View from BA east ridge across to SLN, BB and over to Beinn Udlamain and co.

However the clouds lifted and I could see the light…I loaded up on some sugar and snow, (I could not drink my juice the entire day as the fluid in both bottles had frozen solid within the first hour).
I decided that it might be a long time before I returned to this location so I decided to continue up the ridge to Sron coire na h lolaire. And true to form the winter conditions returned. The cairn provided a fantastic viewpoint. Alas, not the best of conditions for site seeing Prince Charlie’s cave.
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SLN top north to BB ridge and summit

I continued N along the ridge. I sat down to put the crampons back on for the negotiating the ridge. My fingers got stuck to the metal of the crampons, it was like getting a plaster pulled off cold skin with hair.
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Frozen juice

The small corniced section was fine and the climb up the ridge to the summit was sound except for the strong howling wind from the east.
The summit cairn was reached about 1648.

As I sat on the cairn on a quiet moment I felt pins and needles in my lower back. Oh no the voodoo doll again. I checked it out and it was my fleece that had risen and my skin was exposed to the wind and snow. Not good. It was time to get off the summit and out of the winter weather.
I descended the ridge on a north bearing and came across a couple of winter ptarmigans.
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Couple of wee winter ptarmigans

I walked to the point where the ridge ended abruptly at Sron Dreineach rocky crag. Then it was a sharp detour down the steep slope to the lower ground. This also provided an ideal opportunity for a controlled bottom slide. Look at the size of that track.
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gl-ass-ading down final slope

I returned to the bike about 1830 and had a chat with two lads who were on a long weekend. Discussed the walk and the overall ground conditions and bode them well. Deep down I suspected that the weather was set to deteriorate. I found my half can of Pepsi had frozen into a cola ice cube. Pants, as I was gasping.
I jumped on the bike and got going. The track out was even more icy and of course there were some uncontrolled falls. Thankfully the ice and snow helped to ensure no damage to the expensive gear. Just pride, but that comes before a fall anyway. Of course the wind had changed and was now directly into the direction of travel. I broke the casing on my head torch which created a poor connection resulting in an on off light show. Passing the feed station there were hundreds of deer and their green eyes reflecting in the head torch was quite unnerving. I said cheerio to my horse and headed along loch Ericht. One more enforced dismount in the dark woods before returning to the car at 2020. The end of an epic day with Scottish winter conditions providing haunting memories. Thankfully safe and sound with a few near misses and one very real scare.
Surely it must be time for the golf season now.
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Looking NE down glen
Last edited by scottishkennyg on Wed May 28, 2014 6:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Al der and some snow

Postby robertphillips » Mon Mar 25, 2013 10:05 pm

Well done great winter walk these 2 :clap: done them in similar conditions this time last year. 8)
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Re: Al der and some snow

Postby weaselmaster » Mon Mar 25, 2013 11:06 pm

Woo - looks cold and scary :roll:
Apart from the almost going over the edge of the cliffs, a good day out then!
Hoping to be there this coming weekend, so thanks for the weather conditions update.
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Re: Al der and some snow

Postby wilkiemurray » Mon Mar 25, 2013 11:14 pm

Great report and pictures - last time I saw the wild horses the conditions were rather different - 30 degrees- blue skies - no wind - and chased up the hill by a plague of Klegs!!
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Re: Al der and some snow

Postby scottishkennyg » Mon Mar 25, 2013 11:23 pm

Cheers Robert, and I thought it would be good weather too...
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Re: Al der and some snow

Postby scottishkennyg » Mon Mar 25, 2013 11:28 pm

Thanks weaselmaster, yes it was very cold and in between the mini blizzards it was great...not sure about next weekends forecast as it was pretty severe over this weekend and the temperature up here has not warmed up yet.
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Re: Al der and some snow

Postby scottishkennyg » Mon Mar 25, 2013 11:35 pm

Cheers wilkiemurray, what a great day you must have had with temperatures like that. Another positive for me was that there was definitely no clegs around at this time. :)
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Re: Al der and some snow

Postby Scotjamie » Mon Mar 25, 2013 11:40 pm

Stunning stuff skg...too scary for me, but very enjoyable report with great atmosphere in the pics.
Am away to practice my putting :)
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Re: Al der and some snow

Postby quoman » Tue Mar 26, 2013 10:11 am

That's a long day in those's conditions great report and cracking picture's.am glad your sixthsence clicked in :clap:
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Re: Al der and some snow

Postby scottishkennyg » Tue Mar 26, 2013 2:17 pm

Cheers SJ, liked that, I'm definitely going to the range later..
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Re: Al der and some snow

Postby scottishkennyg » Tue Mar 26, 2013 2:18 pm

Thanks quoman
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